In the pregnant belly of the Hollywood sign, tucked into it’s posh fecundity, sits the Monastery of the Angels.
One could so easily drive by in a haze of Los Angeles preoccupation without noticing it at all.
Atop a hill directly behind the monastery is a large statue of Jesus with his arms outstretched.
The view from his hands is the sprawl of a city where people have come for years to make their dreams come true, where people have come to fall into specialness and rise to the heights of fulfilled artistry.
All of the struggles of the modern day pursuit stop rapidly at the front door of the Monastery of the Angels. A step into the gift shop has you greeted immediately by at least 3 women. Religious books line the shelves, spinning racks hold cards of saints. Angel wings are everywhere. The bottom row of shelving is filled with knitted goods made by the cloistered nuns themselves, slippers and hats lovingly designed as if for the families that they never had.
What they are known for is their pumpkin bread which is stacked high on a side shelf next to the register.
Behind the gift shop lays the cloister. The flowers and greenery in the courtyard sweep themselves up into the lilt of the summer air. In the chapel next door a sister is engaged in Perpetual Adoration; constant and unceasing prayer.
The sisters work in shifts, never leaving the chapel unattended. They exist in an ongoing state of connecting with God and praying for the world.
The bubbling quest for material success and the thrust of the industry of illusion bat their eyelashes unknowingly below the chants of uttered prayers.
How could these seventeen sisters, who have accomplished absolutely nothing materially have found such peace, joy and freedom from fear?
Why is it that the land below is mainly filled with angry horn pressers, debaucherous activity, the sadness of unfulfilled dreams, and an increased state of anxiety and panic?
What these sisters grasp, what is beyond religion’s stigmas, is something that we who are fully engaged with the world are so quick to forget:
Being of service to others.
They offer their lives in prayer for us.
With our heads in our phones.
With our debts and our drives to achieve and attain.
With the obsession of the self.
They have been protected from technology’s rapid progression and what that has done to eke out the carved bowl in which we all sit together, shaking our heads in disbelief at the state of the world.
Each one of these women heeded a call. A number of them heard the call from within at the ages of 8 and 9.
For some it came later, one woman heard clearly the voice of god after losing one brother in a car accident and then another to cancer.
There are no new women coming in to the cloister to carry on this work.
An extinction is being witnessed.
Amidst the influx of text messages and Facebook status scrolling, is there a call left to be heard?
Would one know a calling if they felt it?
The difference between us and them is that they have renounced all things worldly and they do seem all the better for it. It’s not to say that we should give up everything, run for the hills and sit on the opposite side of the room with a grail in between us and the world. Perhaps, though, it is to say that we could find a lot more happiness in seeking to slow down.
Remembering that we aren’t machines set to collect and destroy but rather human beings looking for ways to connect, to love and to be loved.